Friday, June 29, 2012

Half-day Kinder Schedule

Putting together my daily schedule for this coming school year has been a bit of a nightmare since I am going back to teaching half-day kindergarten after a year of teaching full-day. Three hours is just not long enough to squeeze everything in! I am waiting for the day my school district decides to do away with half-day for good! I know some of you other half-day teachers were interested in my schedule, so here is what I'm planning for this year:

Half-day Kindergarten Schedule (A.M. Class)

8:45 Arrival and Seatwork (handwriting practice or independent reading from book boxes)
9:00 Shared Reading (alphabet chart, poems & big books)
9:10 Writing Workshop (mini-lesson, independent writing, and then sharing)
9:40 Guided Reading Groups & Literacy Centers (three 15-minute rotations)
10:25 Recess
10:40 Specials (art/music/P.E./technology classes)
11:05 Math (10 minutes each for: calendar, math lesson in workbook, and 1 math station)
11:35 Theme work (quick science/social studies activity or read aloud)
11:45 Pack-up
11:50 Dismissal

I didn't post the schedule for my P.M. class because it looks pretty much exactly the same, I just do everything all over again with my afternoon class from 12:20-3:25 p.m. The most important thing for me as I made my schedule was that I carve out big chunks of time EVERY day for the kids to have guided reading and centers (45 minutes), writing workshop (30 minutes), and math (30 minutes). My half-day students will be going to first grade with kids that have been in full-day kindergartens so they need to spend lots of time on literacy and math each day so that they aren't behind.

You'll notice that lots of things on my schedule only get 10 minutes. A 10 minute mini-lesson is totally doable though! Especially in the afternoon class, because you'll have already taught that EXACT same lesson in the morning and you'll probably be better at teaching it the second time (at least that's what I remember from teaching half-day in prior years).

For my 10 minute shared reading lesson, we do the alphabet chart each day, and then usually just work on one poem or big book per week (although depending on the length of the big book and poem, sometimes you can do both). I have found that having some sort of weekly schedule for shared reading works best when you have so little time. For example:

Monday: introduce the new big book/poem
Tuesday: work on new vocabulary and comprehension skills with the book/poem
Wednesday: work on concepts of print (locating: first word/last word, specific letters, spaces, punctuation, counting letters and words, etc.)
Thursday: work on sight words in the book/poem
Friday: work on rhyming words/word families in the book

This way you make sure you cover lots of different skills throughout the week, even though you only have a tiny bit of time each day (in full-day kinder I had time to do many of these things everyday in shared reading).

I have set aside 30 minutes for writing workshop each day since I think it's really important for kindergarten kids to practice writing every day. I plan to spend about 10 minutes on my mini-lesson-this will usually be a modeled writing or interactive writing lesson. Then I will give students 15 minutes of independent writing at their seats. I will end with 5 minutes of sharing time (I let one table share per day). 15 minutes isn't much for independent writing, but my students will also visit the writing center each week during literacy center time, so they can also work on their writing then as well (and of course we practice writing skills during guided reading groups some days).

I think math is going to be my biggest challenge. In full-day I had so much time that I could teach my lesson in the workbook and then still have a full half hour for my students to do math work stations. This year I will only have 30 minutes for math each day and that will include my calendar time. My plan is to start the year splitting that 30 minutes into three 10-minute sections. So I would start with 10 minutes of calendar, then do 10 minutes of whole class math in the workbook, and then finish with 10 minutes for the kids to do 1 math station with a partner. By January, I plan to do calendar every other day since the kids will have many of the basic calendar concepts learned by then, so this way some days my kids will have an extra 10 minutes to do a second math work station. Actually, I have found that doing calendar every other day when you teach half-day kindergarten is ideal. One day you can do calendar with your morning class and then the next day you can do calendar with your afternoon class, and this way you can avoid having to re-set the calendar and everything else that goes with it on your lunch break so your second class can do it all over again.

Ok, but what about the fun stuff? Well, each class gets 25 minutes a day for specials. Then they also get 15 minutes each day for recess as well. I like to do indoor recess some days instead of going out to the playground so that they can have the chance to do some play centers (housekeeping, blocks, puppets, art, etc.) because my centers during our literacy center time will be more strictly academic (writing center, library center, alphabet center, work work center, pocket chart center, big book center, listening center, etc.). I also try to squeeze in some fun theme-based stuff at the end of each day-but I only give 10 minutes for this. If we have a longer project or craft to go with that week's science/social studies theme, then I will have to end math a little earlier to squeeze in some extra theme time. I also try to make sure the poems/big books I read with the class during shared reading go along with whatever theme we are studying that week.

Finally, my biggest tip is just to stay flexible. Teaching half-day kindergarten is tough-especially when you have colleagues teaching full-day and see all the awesome stuff they have time to do. I think it's okay to occasionally throw out the schedule for a day and do some of those fun activities-we still have 100 day, holiday parties, assemblies, and other days where we just cannot keep to our schedule and that's okay because most days the kids are getting lots of academic instruction even in half a day.

I also don't make myself stick to my schedule the first 6 weeks of school-you are so busy setting up the classroom community, having everyone get to know each other, and working on learning rules/routines/centers/etc. that it is impossible to get with the schedule right away in kindergarten. I also like to have the freedom to spend more time on alphabet activities the first 6 weeks since many of my students come in not knowing their letters and so I don't introduce writing workshop right away so that I can have more alphabet review time. The first month of school we do one letter per day-once that's through I start up writing workshop. Same with guided reading, first 6 weeks we learn and practice centers but I don't pull groups (although hopefully I can squeeze in time to do some initial assessments in between monitoring their attempts at centers).

I find that with half-day I also need to rely on the parents a lot. I send home flashcards and books for the kids to read each night, and I ask the parents to help kids practice things like the alphabet, sight words, and numbers at home since our school day is so short and we just won't have as much time as I want to practice those skills.

Have you decided on your schedule yet for next year? If so, please share! I'd love to see how my blogging friends will be spending their school days- and of course share any scheduling tips you have!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Half-day Kindergarten

This post is for my friends that are teaching half-day kindergarten...and it seems like there aren't too many of us anymore! This year I will be moving back to teaching half-day kindergarten, so I thought I would share some of my tips for keeping organized.

In my school district, we offer both full-day and half-day kindergarten classes, but parents have to pay tuition if they want their child to be in a full-day classroom. The half-day kindergarten teacher in each school teaches two half-day classes, an A.M. class and a P.M. class. That means I'm gearing up for potentially 40-50 students here, estimating that their will be 20-25 in my morning class and 20-25 kids in my afternoon class. So, organization is a MUST!

My biggest half-day tip is color coding everything. I assign each class a color- this year my A.M. class will be red and my P.M. class will be yellow. That way, you know at a glance just by looking at the color, whether something belongs to the A.M. or the P.M. class.

Here is a picture of the cubbies in my classroom. The bottom part of each cubby where backpacks and coats go will be shared by an A.M. kid and P.M. kid, but the top has a small space for each kid to put their personal supplies (red owl tags for A.M. and yellow owl tags for P.M.).

I also put 2 nametags at each table seat. The regular-sized nametags you can buy at teacher stores are too big to fit 2 at each table seat, so I cut up sentence strips I got at Dollar Tree. I know some half-day teachers just skip table nametags altogether, but I always have tons of kids that start school not knowing how to write their name, so I feel like I have to have each child's name on their table spot to help them learn to write it. Again, I use color coding, so each table spot will have 1 red and 1 yellow nametag (I won't write the names on the tags until my class list is finalized!).

In my district, 40 minutes of guided reading is required each day- doesn't matter if you teach half-day or full-day. So...I had to make sure I was organized for a whole lot of guided reading groups, since I will be doing it each morning and afternoon and could have 4 or 5 groups in each class. I'm using red baskets and folders for my A.M. class and yellow baskets and folders for my P.M. class. I absolutely LOVE these baskets from Calloway House because they are divided onto 3 sections so I can keep the group's guided reading books for the week in one section, their journals for writing/word work activities in one section, and my folder with lesson plans/running records in another section.

I love those little baskets they have been selling in the Target Dollar Spot the last few years. I have tons of them in all different colors due to my Target addiction. This year, I will use one of the red baskets to hold the math books for my A.M. class and one of the yellow baskets to hold the math books for my P.M. class. When I taught full-day I just had them keep things like math books in their chair pockets, but that is just too much stuff for one chair pocket with half-day kids sharing the chair pockets now.

For my behavior system, I use a clip chart with apples. I clip clothespins onto the sides of the chart and the kids all start each day on the green apple. As they get warnings in class, I move their clip down progressively (to the yellow, "orange," and red apples). The apple chart under the red owl is for A.M. and the chart under the yellow owl is for P.M.

One of my literacy centers is the pocket chart center. I have a big pocket chart at this center that usually has some sort of poem or song that you can put students' names in. For example, we will start the year with "Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?" in the pocket chart. Then students can take nametags with their classmates names/photos and insert them into the poem to read it. I will use the red pocket chart to hold all of the A.M. students' nametags/photos for the pocket chart center and the yellow pocket chart for the P.M. students (these little pocket charts are the ones Target sells in their Dollar Spot each summer).

I know at this point you're probably thinking I'm a bit crazy to take the color-coding so far, but honestly it really helps. I do it with absolutely everything- even their take-home folders and their writing journals. In terms of assessment, I keep a red binder for my A.M. class and a yellow binder for my P.M. class, and then I also have hanging files for each student as well (you can buy colored tabs to put at the top of each hanging file if you want to color code these too).

I will be sharing some of my other half-day teaching ideas as well as my half-day schedule later this summer as I continue getting organized for the upcoming school year...should be fun to try to figure out how to fit in guided reading, writing workshop, and math work stations (not to mention everything else) in under 3 hours!

I would love to hear tips from other half-day teachers out there! Us half-day teachers have to stick together and help each other out!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Projects!

We've only had 2 weeks of summer vacation so far, but already I'm thinking of going back into the classroom this week to tackle some summer projects! It's pretty hard to keep a teacher away from school for too long!

Last year I wasn't able to get into my classroom until just days before school started, which was really tough! This year though, I begged the custodians to clean my room first, and they took pity on me. Here's what my classroom looked like last sure looks a lot bigger without all of my stuff!

The floors have been cleaned and waxed and my furniture is being moved back in today, so I can go in and get ready for next year anytime now! I'm so excited that I won't be going crazy in August racing to get it all done since I can work on it a little at a time all summer.

After catching up on all my blog reading these last few days, I see that lots of you are WAY more organized than I am. Wow! I really need to get my act together, so I've decided to tackle organizing my files into theme binders. I'm really hoping that this way I can clean out an entire file cabinet or two and get rid of them to make some more space in my classroom.

I'm thinking that if I better organize the closet in my classroom, I'll have space to store all of these binders in there. It took forever just to label all the binders-so I can't even imagine how long it's going to take me to organize all of my papers inside each binder!

After I tackle all those binders, I think that I'll also have to rethink how I store my center games and materials. I've always done literacy centers and so I feel like I have those materials under control, but with implementing math work stations for the first time last year, I feel like now I have way more stuff. I think all this organizing is going to take quite a bit of time!

What classroom projects are you tackling this summer? Anyone else overwhelmed by all the organizing they need to do?